Zero Waste: What and Why?
Updated: Jun 15
Short answer: we send nothing to landfill.
"Zero waste is a goal that is ethical, economical and efficient to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycle, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use."
Zero waste sets out a hierarchy of waste management, similar to that of the EU's waste categorisation pyramid. According to the hierarchy we should first avoid waste if possible, if it cannot be avoided it should be minimised and so on and so forth according to the pyramid below.
Thus, if we cannot avoid waste we should use materials which are easily recyclable or compostable. Examples of these materials are paper, glass, bamboo and cotton. For example, in a cafe the gold standard is using physical cups which are cleaned after each use. If this is not possible encourage customers to bring their own keep cup, thereby ensuring re-use. If this is not an option opt for compostable or recyclable cups. This from of thinking (re-use before single use) can be applied to all materials and services in your business.
WHY ZERO WASTE?
We have waste problem. Currently we are producing 1.2kg of waste per person per day. This is expected to increase to 1.42kg per person per day by 2020. This waste is not going anywhere soon with many articles quoting 400-1000 years for plastic to biodegrade.
According to a study undertaken by the World Economic Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Mckinsey, 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging end up in our oceans. This is the equivalent of pouring one bin truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
If we continue, this is expected to reach two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. Based on these predictions there could be more plastic than fish in the world's ocean. A fish-less ocean may become a reality.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Both individuals, businesses and government have a part to play. Individuals can minimise their personal waste by practicing zero waste and supporting businesses and initiatives which reduce waste. We all have a part to play.
Businesses have a responsibility to ensure that as little waste as possible is passed onto the customer. Businesses should encourage and practice waste avoidance and re-use. Packaging/waste passed onto customers should be minimised and be recyclable or compostable.
Government can support individuals and businesses through legislation which promotes a move to a circular economy. The EU has a voluntary directive for all member states to move towards a circular/carbon neutral economy by 2030. This directive sets out a number of actions which can be taken to move towards a circular economy - including zero waste initiatives.
Here at ZeroWaste.ie, it is our goal to make zero waste as easy, accessible and affordable as possible to businesses moving towards an environmentally friendly mode of operation. We are committed to the continuous development and improvement of our end to end solution to further reduce the waste of our clients. If this service is of interest to you, please contact us via the contact form.
One Earth: Zero Waste